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I’ve thought about giving up. No longer creating. No longer caring. It’s on these, the darkest days, that I end up at Perryville Prison or on a road trip to Prescott or, say, to a sober-living halfway house in downtown Phoenix. It’s on these darkest days that Gina’s Team has saved my life.

Gina’s Team was named for Gina Panetta, a young mother who died while serving time in an Arizona prison. In her memory, we actively promote education and self-sufficiency for incarcerated women and men in Arizona at no cost to the prisons.

My title at work is “Book Nerd,” and this title has perpetuated through my time with Gina’s Team. At first, it was a monthly book club at Perryville Prison. I am now expanding to start a book club for former inmates and recovering addicts in downtown Phoenix and also at Mingus Mountain Academy—a safe haven for troubled teenage girls.

One of my dark days occurred last Wednesday, when I woke at 6 AM and knew I had to head to Prescott to judge a poetry slam at Mingus. My anxiety was off the charts, and I had trouble remembering how to dress myself. Then, we—Gina’s Team—arrived at Mingus, and the slam began.

One girl’s name was called (coincidentally, Sarah), and she covered her face. She ran up to us and said she couldn’t do it, couldn’t read in front of a hundred of her peers. She looked to me for some nod that would allow her to sit down and give up. Instead, I pulled her aside and said, “I’m terrified to be here today. I’d much rather be under my bed, but I got up on that stage earlier. You can, too. Now, go read.”

skype-stay-together-ad-two-girls-huggingShe did. An excerpt from Sarah’s piece, written for the founders of Mingus, Bill and Pauline: “I didn’t care about my life, and I wanted to die. I fought every day and held in my pain. I was stuck on alcohol and self harm habits. I hit rock bottom, then one day, a staff sat me down to tell me the story of Bill and Pauline. I didn’t want to accept that someone once cared about girls lonely and scared.”

Sarah won third place. I have her judging numbers on the wall in my office as a reminder of that day, and I like to think Sarah looks at her third place certificate and thinks of Gina’s Team. I hope we did something for her that day.

Gina’s Team has had a huge effect on my life. I’ve met beautiful, broken women who I have helped to heal—at least a wound or two. Now, we’re expanding, reaching out to more women, more volunteers. So now, I need something from you.

Behind the scenes is a team of web masters, volunteer accountants, organizers … you name it, someone is doing it. The bad news: one of our computers just died. We are in desperate need of a new Mac, so we’ve started a GoFundMe campaign. In order to continue serving women at Perryville and young girls like Sarah at Mingus, we need efficient access to technology. Please consider giving just five bucks, ten bucks, something.

When I have my darkest days, Gina’s Team pulls me from my shell and shoves me into situations that should be scary. Instead, my experiences with Gina’s Team have left me enlivened and hopeful for the future. I will not give up, no matter my personal darkness, because there are women who need me. Gina’s Team won’t give up either. Please help us in our continued mission to change lives for the better.

Head to GoFundMe now and donate, and please spread the need to your friends, family, and social media circle. Thank you!

A chat with the director.

A chat with the director.


There’s a secret I hide. Few people know this secret, and they have kept quiet for the past twelve years. They can now break their silence, as I make this astounding announcement: I used to be an actress.

When writer pal Rasheda Poe asked me to be in her short film, I hedged. I was vague. I told her I wasn’t “actually an actress.” This is untrue. In high school, I was Theater Student of the Year as a senior. I earned my varsity letter as a thespian. In college, I minored in acting. My last stage show was in 2002, and I haven’t acted since.

Historically, I was cast as the bitch. I don’t know why. I’m not a bitch. I’m actually quite nice, but perhaps my snark comes across as bitchy. Perhaps men see me as bitchy (since I was always cast by men).

Rasheda saw the bitch in me, too. Well, the bitch and the psychopath. Her short film, entitled “Urban Midnight,” is about a seductive murderess. Rasheda wrote the role of Fiona with me in mind. It’s highly complimentary when one of your best friends thinks you’d make a perfect murderer, right? I think so.

Monday night, we spent five hours filming. I have a semi-photographic memory, which makes me super annoying to other actors. (I’m always correcting people.) I knew I could memorize the lines, but could I deliver them?

I arrived to the “set” (an extended stay hotel) and found myself surrounded by about ten film geek dudes. Yeah, Rasheda and I were the only girls, and I was in nothing but a robe. We joked about how the hotel probably thought we were filming porn, and yeah, I may have busted out the Old School line, “I’m here for the gang bang.”

Blood is so hard to wash off.

Blood is so hard to wash off.

Playing Fiona was like playing Hannibal Lecter: a lot of stillness with very little facial expression. My favorite part was when the boys covered me in chocolate syrup for fake blood (it’s what Hitchcock used for Psycho). Since the film was in black and white, this worked perfectly.

How did it feel to have the acting boots on again? I guess we should take a quick trip back to 2002 first.

In 2002, I was a sophomore at Ohio University, an acting major. I’d just been cast as the overbearing, bitchy older sister in a dark comedy about one man returning home for his father’s funeral. I had one scene in particular where it was just me in the center of the stage, giving my father’s eulogy, and finally breaking down. I physically ached after every performance.

It was reminiscent of when I starred in “To Absent Friends” in high school: a short play in which the viewer realizes, only at the end, that all the characters are dead. My friend, Emily, had to be escorted out of the theater by her boyfriend because she was so distraught by the shocking conclusion.

During my “actor days,” I understood the power of theater. I’m a movie buff to this day. In fact, I’m a movie snob and trivia expert. But in 2002, I realized I loved what actors did … but I hated acting. I switched to creative writing. Haven’t looked back since.

That said, since I’m a huge proponent of doing things that scare the shit out of me, I agreed to act in Rasheda’s short film, and I did have fun. I liked playing a sociopath, and the process was interesting: all the camera angles, the sound stuff, and “getting into character” with the help of my awesome costars. I slid back into it like a hand in a glove.

So shall I announce my victorious return to acting? Um, no. Making “Urban Midnight” was fun, but acting (although once my thing) is a very small part of my introverted, writer brain. Just like singing (something I can do but don’t really enjoy), acting will be one of those skills I keep in my back pocket in case Ben Cumberbatch calls and wants me to play his romantic lead.

Until then, I’ll tuck Fiona away but thank her (and Rasheda) for reminding me how fun it is to step outside my comfort zone for a couple hours and do something truly unique.

Lesson Learned

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A week ago today, my short story, “Don’t Ball the Boss,” was published in one of my favorite literary magazines, Stoneslide Corrective. I’d been waiting months for the big unveiling, and when I saw my story (mine) flash across the homepage, I was thrilled. Then, something unexpected happened.

Well. I mean, nothing happened.

I don’t know if I expected a call from Stephen Colbert, inviting me to be on his show. Maybe a couple literary agents on my front stoop, begging to sign me? Helicopters circling my house?

Nope. Nothing. Radio silence.

I thought publishing was supposed to make me happy. Getting my work out there was supposed to make me complete. Instead, despite the honor of publication, I felt empty.

The next morning, my Aunt Susie and I headed to Prescott, where we wandered the streets and ate too much food. As we passed through the center square, a young woman in a woolen cap asked me if I had any cash. I lied and said “No, sorry,” but I did give her a cigarette, which made her smile.

Susie headed back to our hotel for a nap, and I made a sudden decision. I found the young homeless girl (along with her husband) and said, “Can I buy you guys a beer?” They wouldn’t have been more shocked if I’d offered them a mansion in the Hollywood Hills.

Beverly and Josh took me to the Whiskey Row Pub: a great dive with tons of TVs and pool tables. Once there, I bought us a round of PBRs. Beverly and Josh explained that they’d both lost their jobs as bartenders and were currently sleeping behind a dumpster—hiding as best they could to avoid a police fine (because it makes so much sense to fine people who can’t afford to sleep indoors).

Nightlife_0000_Whiskey-Row-PubWith wet eyes, Josh kept saying, “You’re so cool.” I slipped Beverly as much cash as I could afford, and even though she refused a couple times, she eventually accepted when I told her, “You have to eat.” Last I saw them, we were hugging on the street, and they were headed to Vegas to seek greener pastures. I wish I had taken their picture.

I haven’t stopped thinking about Beverly and Josh. I gave her one of my business cards, but did I do enough? They reminded me of the hitchhiker I picked up weeks ago who couldn’t afford a ride to Perryville Prison to see her incarcerated daughter for her thirtieth birthday. That woman, Karen, got in my car and couldn’t stop crying, saying, “Thank you, thank you,” until I thought her vocal chords might give out. I had to calm her down before she could go into the prison, because the officers aren’t really fans of hysterics.

In church yesterday, my pastor talked about the story in Luke of the four friends who carried their paralyzed buddy to the roof and lowered him into a crowded room just so Jesus could touch the guy—which sent me into a complete panic because again, I thought of Beverly and Josh: Did I do enough? Did I do enough? God, I didn’t do enough.

I’m sorry to say work has taken a back seat the past couple days. Although I’m still thrilled to see my name on the Stoneslide Corrective website, the past week has made me rethink what matters. Do I want to be interviewed by Stephen Colbert due to my obvious literary genius? Of course. But as I’ve learned, the buzz of celebrity lasts about as long as a mug of PBR.

The ache in my chest for Beverly, Josh, and Karen has lasted for days and shows no sign of ceasing. I might pick up hitchhikers. I might hang out with the homeless. I might run a book club at Perryville Prison. But I’m not doing enough, not enough lasting good. Not yet.

I will seek ways to serve people and not my ego, because serving my ego makes me feel nothing but a short-lived bump. Our egos cannot be filled. Our egos are bottomless pits that consume and consume. But doing something for someone in need? That feeds the divinity in all of us, and if we do enough, maybe the hunger—the constant striving—will cease. Maybe we will feel whole.

For now, my thoughts are with Beverly and Josh as they travel north. I know they got to take a shower Friday, and this thrilled them when we spoke Tuesday afternoon. I hope they’re all right. God, please let them be all right. I’m sorry I didn’t do more.

“Don’t Ball the Boss” is a whopper of a good time. If you’re offended by homosexuality, cussing, or super hot British actors, do not read. This hilarious and irreverent short story is featured in The Stoneslide Corrective today, and I dedicate every word to the adoring Cumber Collective and/or my Cumberbitches (depending on how you identify). Definitely rated R.

Don’t Ball the Boss
by Sara Dobie Bauer

Rule number one: don’t fuck the boss. Even if he is doing that thing he does when he’s nervous. He pulls on the cuffs of his dress shirt. I don’t think he even knows he does it, and the movement makes me want to rip that Dolce and Gabbana shirt right off. I pretend not to watch.

There are five of us in his hotel room. His driver is in the restroom; then, there’s his tailor and me. His blond agent sits on the edge of his bed with her smart phone. She’s talking to someone and says, “Not her. Don’t make him sit next to her at the premiere.” I can tell she’s eating this up, the way America is eating him up, the way I would love—Jesus, I’m fucking starving.

a1e18c7cbcc4fa18cec0a9520b8444e2“David?”

I give myself permission to look at him when he addresses me.

The tailor, an old dude with glasses like Olivier in Marathon Man, drapes a tuxedo coat over his shoulders.

“How’s the fit?”

I casually address six feet of British politeness and fold my hands over my crotch. “Perfect, sir.”

“I keep telling you not to call me sir. Call me Nicholas.”

Not Nick. I’ve noticed no one calls him Nick. And tonight is his night.

***

A friend called a week ago and asked if I was looking for work. In Hollywood, shit, we’re always looking for work. I’m a personal assistant to the stars, and I’m real good—like Meryl Streep at Oscar time good. They say I’m discreet and subservient; stars like that.

So my pal calls up and tells me there’s this up and coming British star on his way over for a movie premiere. The film is huge, the kind that makes back its budget in a night, and this Brit plays the bad guy. He’s never been to Hollywood. He needs someone who knows the right barbers, tailors, call girls …

That’s where I come in: David Baron, assistant to the stars. And I’m not given to flights of fancy.

I’ve assisted maybe a hundred newbie celebs over the years and felt not a twitch in my pants. I took one look at Nicholas Pike and thought about quitting because PA’s don’t fuck the client. In the business, we tell stories about PA’s who did. They end up as homeless hookers.

***

We’re standing around, waiting to leave for his big movie premiere, and his agent won’t shut up. God, I hate her, been listening to her ever since Nicholas got here. She’s too blond, fake blond, and her British accent isn’t like his. Nicholas is all Oxford-sounding; she’s like the wenches in Oliver Twist. She has terrible style, too—wears pink lipstick, and nobody outside 1985 wears pink lipstick.

She’s giving Nicholas the time breakdown for tonight’s movie premiere, and he’s rubbing the space between his neck and shoulder. He’s been doing that a lot, but unlike the cuff pulling, this isn’t a nervous twitch. He injured his neck doing a stunt for a film he’s making in England. I know this because he told me. He tells me a lot of things.

For instance:
He’s never once in his life considered smoking a bad habit.
Without a stylist, he would have no idea how to dress himself.
Finally, he believes his sudden and newly realized status as a sex symbol makes no sense. (Quote: “I’ve had the same face since I was twenty!”)

I explained to him days ago it’s all about the role. A role can make somebody, and although I haven’t seen him play the villain, I have no doubt: he’s made it. He’s been doing appearances all week, me at his side, and when we step outside the limo, it’s mania. Women are everywhere, screaming his name, waving pictures for him to sign, and he does sign them. We’ve been late to every single appearance this week, because he loves signing things, having his picture taken. He loves his fans, and I wonder if this is a British thing. He has more manners than an auditorium full of nuns.

I’m his assistant, yet he makes sure I order first at restaurants. He holds the door—for me. He smiles at me in crowds, apparently to make sure I’m all right, and it’s his manners that do it. The manners make me want to fuck him, just shove him against a wall somewhere and swallow his protests with hot, sloppy kisses.

How do things end up for David and Nicholas?

FIND OUT AT STONESLIDE CORRECTIVE!

Five months ago, Valerie’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire in their high school cafeteria. He targeted people who made their “Hate List:” a collection of people who harassed them, picked on them, and made their lives at Garvin High a living hell. Valerie had no idea he was going to go this far, but in his way, Nick did it for her. To stop the bloodshed, Valerie ended up getting shot before Nick took his own life.

Now, Valerie must return to her high school with an injured leg and face the consequences of Nick’s actions and their shared Hate List—which of course made the news. People aren’t sure if she’s a victim, a hero, or an accomplice, and many students are shocked Valerie even returned. How dare she show her face after the pain she and her boyfriend caused?

6316171Hate List is author Jennifer Brown’s debut, and what a way to arrive on the literary scene. Hate List is very dark, but interestingly, Brown is a two-time winner of the Erma Bombeck Global Humor Award. Obviously, she’s multi-talented.

As you may expect, Hate List is not—not—an easy read. Despite beautiful flowing prose and a likeable protagonist in Valerie, I spent most of my reading time in tears. This book is considered YA fiction, but for me, it read like a ghost story.

Valerie is haunted by the memory of Nick, the boy she loved. The intimate flashbacks of how they met and fell in love make his ultimate murder spree all the more painful. Nick and Valerie were happy together. They acted like teens in love, stealing kisses, laughing, chasing each other around kitchen counters over the sound of Valerie’s giggles. The memory of Nick haunts her, and she still can’t believe what he did. When they talked about their Hate List, suicide, and murder, how did she not see that he was serious?

Valerie is the town villain when she returns to school, and she’s surrounded by a cast of characters you either like or thoroughly dislike. Her parents are an absolute mess and blame her for the shooting (as do many of her fellow students). She finds solace in her supportive therapist, Dr. Hieler; in unlikely classmate Jessica; and in crazy painter lady, Bea. Still, Valerie’s healing has nothing to do with them—not really. On her own, she needs to say goodbye to the past and forgive Nick. Forgive herself.

This book made me rethink so much of my own high school experience. How many people did I wrong? How many mean things did I say? Since my friends and I were nerds, we had a nickname for the popular girls: Snob Squad. I channeled my hate into cutting myself, but what would I have done, pushed to the edge like Nick?

stop-bullying-sourceNick the shooter is one of the most sympathetic characters in Hate List. We see him through Valerie’s flashbacks, and he was charming, sweet, and abused by his fellow classmates. Even though the cafeteria shooting scene is horrific, I couldn’t help but feel attached to the ghost of this young man. If only someone had saved him before it was too late. He haunts the pages of Jennifer’s Brown’s debut. He haunts me now.

I wish this book could be required reading in junior highs across America, but Lord knows, it would get banned. Much like the idiotic principal at Garvin High who wants the media to believe the students have recovered from the massacre and that they’re all lovey-dovey after the fact, the world wants us to believe “the kids are all right.”

The kids aren’t all right. We never were. How many of us suffered through depression and thoughts of suicide in high school? How many of us had friends who actually went through with it—ended up hanging from their parents’ chandelier in Small Town, Ohio? I did. Although I did not have a Hate List, I hated people. And hate leads to nothing good.

I suggest Jennifer Brown’s debut to teens and adults alike (especially adults with children). There is a lot to learn here about love, forgiveness, and the poison of bullying turned to anger and violence. How do good kids become monsters? The step by step process is there if we’re willing to look. Instead, we turn a blind eye.

Well, open your eyes. Hate is real, and its consequences are devastating. Buy the book HERE.

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Query letters are supposed to be catchy, succinct, and intriguing. They’re also a pain in the ass to write. As I prepare to sell my manuscript, Bite Somebody, I must first prepare a dreaded query letter. That’s where you come in.

Kindly read the following query letter and tell me if it a) makes you wanna read my book and b) flows and/or makes sense. If all goes well, maybe I’ll mention you in the Acknowledgments.

Bite Somebody Query Letter: First Draft

All Celia wanted was her first bite and a cute boyfriend.

She expected her life to change when she became a vampire, but she’s the same chubby, awkward Pretty Woman-loving girl she’s always been. Abandoned by her maker, the opportunity for change arrives in the form of Ian, her new neighbor at Florida’s Sleeping Gull Apartments.

Ian is a goofy ex-surfer who likes Jeopardy and, to her surprise, Celia. Despite the nagging of Imogene, her only vampire friend, Celia can’t get her fangs to go “boing” at the right time, and her first bite seems less and less attainable.

When Ian makes his romantic move, Danny, Celia’s jerk of a creator, returns for a favor. He wants to harvest Ian’s human blood, because Ian’s blood smells like Christmas wrapped in bacon and they could make a fortune. But the last thing Celia wants is her cute boyfriend dead.

Bite Somebody: A Bloodsucker’s Diary is a 75,000 word YA paranormal romance parody set at the beach, and nothing and nobody are what they seem.

My name is Sara Dobie Bauer. I’m a vampire enthusiast and fan of Christopher Moore and Gregory Maguire. I earned my creative writing degree from Ohio University and am the official book nerd at SheKnows.com. My short fiction has appeared in The Molotov Cocktail, Stoneslide Corrective, and Solarcide.

A full synopsis and manuscript are available upon request. Intelligent vampire fans who don’t take themselves at all seriously thank you.

skydiving
A friend of mine was a pilot who served his country well. Due to his experience, he never understood why someone would pay to go skydiving. In his words: “Why would you jump out of a perfectly good plane?”

My tandem mate Tod asked me this same question last week at Skydive Phoenix as I prepared to do just that. Why? Why would I choose to jump out of a plane at eight thousand feet? I wish I had a good answer, but as I told Tod’s nifty video camera, “I was bored.”

Now, I realize most so-called “normal human beings” wouldn’t get bored and decide to plummet toward Earth with a bag on their back, but you know me: I’m the girl who swam with sharks in Belize; who loves haunted houses and cemeteries at night. I’m the girl who likes to be scared.

When I arrived at Skydive Phoenix Thursday morning, I felt immediately at home. I was surrounded by people younger than me who seemed to be having a damn fine time just hangin’ together. I met Tod, who reminded me of a rock band roadie mixed with a Southern Florida surfer dude. Turns out he was from Ohio. As I chose my Ohio University “House Beer” t-shirt for my jump, we hit it off immediately.

There was little prep work. Sure, I signed all the paperwork that said Jake couldn’t sue anyone if I ended up a pancake. Then, I put on a harness, and we walked to a plane the size of an SUV. The video camera (strapped to Tod’s wrist) came along, and Tod kept asking, “Nervous yet?” Should I be concerned that I wasn’t?

The itty-bitty plane climbed to eight thousand feet. Tod and I were strapped together as we slid to the open door. My last moment of clarity: With my left foot outside the plane, I stared down at the desert below. Then, we jumped.

I can’t say the free fall is clear. I don’t exactly remember the way my body felt, and my mind was blown blank by adrenaline. I think I was screaming (we’ll see once I get the video tape back). What I can say with assurance: the free fall was over much too fast.

As we swung above the earth, tethered to our parachute, the first thing that came to mind: “I need to do this again.”

I had a perfect landing (thank you very much), and I felt like my spirit was still eight thousand feet high. The cool chick at the Skydive Phoenix office confirmed my belief that after skydiving, there are two things that should happen: a cigarette and sex.

I have to thank the team at Skydive Phoenix for making my experience so easy, enjoyable, and fun (including the guy who said he was going to undertake his hundredth jump nude. Now, that would be something to see!). Tod was the perfect crazy person to be tied to, and I already have intentions to do a thirteen thousand-foot jump in the near future.

There’s something about doing irresponsible things that makes me feel alive. Since my jump, all sorts of people have called me crazy for doing it, but I think they’re just jealous they don’t have the balls to let go. Do something that scares you. Do something that makes you freak. Stop working and wake up for a second. Find your own “plane,” and make the jump.

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